Readers comments 10.20.12
Holding education hostage
Once again the sage of Sumner, David Nemer, sets up a Halloween strawman to attack the logical conclusions of Mr. Hammill’s opposition to Prop 30 published Wednesday, October 17. Not only is it child’s play to provide a patently obvious ‘viable explanation’ to Mr. Nemer, but it also shows why Prop 38 as well does nothing for education.
To answer Mr. Nemer, the ‘viable explanation’ of how to resolve the education budget crisis is twofold and has nothing to do with either Prop 30 or 38: First, the legislature needs to spend more existing money on education and less on things like high speed trains to nowhere and issuing bonds so Claremont can buy land to expand its Wilderness Park.
Second, we need to comprehensively reform school funding in California so local tax payers control and fund education, removing the 40 percent that Sacramento bureaucrats take off the top of the education budget. Most Californians do not know that California allocates roughly $10,000 per student for primary public education, placing it in the top half of the states in per student funding.
Unfortunately, less than $6000 per student gets to the Claremont classroom for general education purposes. Over 40 cents out of every education dollar is lost to the bureaucracy in Sacramento or funding pet programs that do little to help Claremont students.
By way of comparison, in my former districts where I served, a mere 5.7 percent of the budget went to administrative overhead. Local control of funding means we control our priorities, how many administrators we want to fund and how much to spend in the classroom.
But this letter is about Prop 30 and 38, and here is why you should vote no: simply put, there is nothing in either proposition that would prevent the legislature from taking the existing education budget, cutting it further and then offsetting the cuts with the new tax revenue.
Don’t listen to the hype concerning how the propositions ‘protect’ their tax revenue for schools. It’s not about the new revenue, but the existing revenue stream which can be cut without concern for the proposition language. To vote ‘yes,’ one must trust the legislators to not play that sleight of hand. I don’t.
The reason why I do not trust them is because the legislators have proven untrustworthy in the past on this exact issue.
When the lottery was passed in 1984, the first year it promised to add hundreds of millions to the education budget. This was ‘big money’ in 1985. While the lottery successfully ‘supplemented’ the education budget, the legislators then reduced the general fund contribution to education by almost the same amount. So while the technical language of the law was met, the spirit was not. There remains no limitation in Prop 30 or 38 preventing the legislature reducing general fund revenues, and allocating the special revenue stream to education to make up that loss. That is my objection, and it should be yours as well, in addition to our elected leaders shamefully holding our children’s education hostage if they don’t get the money they want.
If we pass these taxes, the legislature will do what it has always done; find a way around the law. Neither Prop 30 nor 38 place any limits on the power of the legislature to reduce general fund contributions to public education.
Comprehensive education reform in California needs to happen. Placing a tax band-aid onto a broken system is like cosmetic surgery; it makes the surface look better but ugly still goes to the bone.
Vote No on Proposition 30 and 38. Lets fix education funding in California, and not put lipstick on a pig.
Cutting education first
Before I moved to California, I lived for many years in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is a very liberal state, much more so even than California, and people there have seldom met a social program that they weren’t willing to fund with their tax dollars.
But their liberal temperament was sorely tested when it was discovered that the state was paying for cable TV service for welfare moms. The taxpayers had led themselves to believe that their tax dollars were going to feed the hungry and house the homeless, so they were understandably vexed to learn that they were also funding something as frivolous as cable TV.
In the ensuing debate, there was plenty of speculation about what other truly wasteful and unnecessary programs were out there that were not being reported by the media. Only a battle-hardened accountant could ever hope to tease out the detail that, somewhere buried under a bland line item entitled “Aid for Dependent Children” there was an expense for cable TV.
The taxpayers were especially annoyed that this was occurring during a time when the politicians were telling us that we simply had to pony up more tax dollars or else they were going to have to make reductions to the now-all-too-familiar trio of education, police and fire. At what point were they going to tell us that they could save at least a few dollars by eliminating the cable TV benefit?
It’s become a time-honored tradition that in times of fiscal stress, politicians tend to threating the taxpayers with cuts in the services that they value the most, but keep quiet about the costly boondoggles that benefit only a small, favored constituency.
Now let’s fast forward to present day California and Prop 30. Prop 30 is a tax increase, plain and simple. Governer Jerry Brown says if we don’t approve it, he’s going to have to cut education (he hasn’t threatened police or fire, so that must not be in the state budget). So, honestly Governor, is there nothing else in the state budget that can be cut besides education? Nothing? Is this really the best you can do? You’ve been in Sacramento forever, and this is the best you can do?
Fortunately, I think that at some level most voters know that there are plenty of very ineffective programs that can be cut or eliminated and will never be missed.
We may not be funding cable TV for welfare moms in California, but we all know there’s plenty of other goofy programs that would not long survive public scrutiny.
We’ll never read about them in the Los Angeles Times, and sadly even at the local level I don’t think we’re going to read about them in the Claremont COURIER. But we know that the state budget is full of unnecessary and unwanted expenses, and that’s what we want cut before there’s even the slightest suggestion that education (or police or fire) should be cut. Using our kids’ education as leverage to get a tax increase is nothing short of extortion.
I have a kid in the Claremont school system and of course I want the best for our schools, but I’m voting no on Prop 30.
If I had any faith at all that Sacramento would use the money wisely it might be a different story, but they just can’t be trusted.
If Governor Brown wants to make cuts to education, let him face the wrath of the voters in the next election. I’m going to have to know a whole lot more about where California has been squandering it’s money these many years before I vote to send Sacramento yet even more of my tax dollars. I hope you readers will be equally discriminating.